Workplace injuries are common in every occupation. It is almost expected that a worker will experience some type of physical injury. But very rarely do workers consider workers’ compensation benefits for mental disorders caused by their occupations.
There are occupations such as firefighters and construction workers whose dangerous nature can cause workers to experience PTSD. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental disorder that is characterized by flashbacks or nightmares of the traumatic event. A bill to that would allow first responders to claim workers’ compensation has been stuck in the North Carolina Senate since may of last year, but we hope that it will eventually gain enough traction to get passed and signed into law.
For the rest of North Carolina’s employees, however, there is hope. They can file workers’ compensation claims for PTSD. The Charlotte workers’ compensation attorneys at Price, Petho & Associates can explain how you qualify.
Can workers who suffer from PTSD file workers’ compensation claims?
Yes, you can. In North Carolina, workers who suffer from PTSD can obtain workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits assist workers who have been hurt in the workplace. As long as the injury occurred at the workplace, the employee is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Whether the injury is physical (like a burn or broken bone) or mental/emotional (like PTSD or another mental health condition) does not matter. The only requirement is that the worker’s injuries are work-related. That includes conditions resulting from dangerous conditions in the workplace.
Workers’ compensation offers two forms of financial benefits: medical expenses and wage loss. If seeking psychological help, counseling, or therapy is necessary for you to treat your illness, then these expenses should be covered by your work comp payments.
Typically, you should also receive about two-thirds of your weekly wages in a wage loss benefit. If your PTSD is severe enough to leave you unable to work at all, however, you could potentially be entitled to disability benefits. North Carolina’s schedule of injury benefits does not currently cover compensation for mental health conditions, but if part of the cause of your illness is a disfiguring injury, that specific injury may be covered.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD includes physical and mental symptoms. The mental symptoms include constant flashbacks related to the traumatic incident, avoidance of situations that are related to the traumatic event, feelings of anxiety, and the feeling of being on the edge.
The amount of stress that PTSD can cause is enough to negatively affect a worker’s physical condition. The physical symptoms of PTSD include an elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, muscle tension, headaches, and fatigue. Although PTSD is considered a mental disorder, the physical symptoms can affect a worker’s ability to perform. Fatigue alone can affect a worker’s judgment. The physical symptoms could be so severe that workers must take long periods of time off of work.
Some of the workplace accidents that can cause workers to experience PTSD include:
- Trench collapses
- Car crashes
- Physical assault
- Gun violence
These incidents can cause workers to experience ongoing trauma. The more graphic or severe the traumatic incident, the greater the chances of developing PTSD. Workers are permitted to file for workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD-related injuries. But receiving benefits may be difficult if the employee only suffers from PTSD.
Issues with filing workers’ compensation claims for mental health
There are several challenges when workers attempt to file workers’ compensation claims for mental health conditions like PTSD. One of the challenges is proving that a worker’s job duties are responsible for their diagnosis. Securing workers’ compensation benefits for physical injuries can be difficult for workers. Proving that your job is the primary source of your PTSD diagnosis can be even more challenging.
Employers will request medical evidence of a PTSD diagnosis. This is often difficult for several reasons. The first reason is that PTSD is a mental disorder that takes months to diagnose. Victims of PTSD may not begin to exhibit symptoms until months after their traumatic experience has happened.
The second reason is that the symptoms are more psychological and diverse. Many PTSD symptoms create more psychological damage than physical damage. Symptoms are also unique to each individual. Not every PTSD victim experiences the same symptoms.
How employers could use this information against employees
Employers may use the nature of PTSD symptoms against the employees. The fact that the symptoms will not appear until months after the incident can affect workers’ abilities to get their benefits.
Employers will also question whether the PTSD diagnosis is accurate. The lack of physical medical evidence can affect the injured worker’s compensation claim.
How to effectively prove PTSD for workers’ compensation claims in NC
Fortunately, injured workers can receive workers’ compensation benefits by proving a strong connection between PTSD and their job duties. The best way to prove this connection is through routine therapy visits. Employees have a greater chance of receiving benefits for PTSD if they began attending therapy following a traumatic workplace accident. A psychiatrist can offer their medical opinion about the employee’s PTSD diagnosis. This is the medical evidence that would be required for a workers’ compensation claim.
When you have suffered PTSD as a result of a dangerous workplace, reach out to a skilled Charlotte workers’ compensation attorney today. The team at Price, Petho & Associates will investigate the incident that left you injured and build a case for compensation. Our attorneys are experienced in proving the existence of PTSD in our injured clients. Call our office, or submit our contact form to schedule your free consultation. We represent injured clients in Charlotte, Rutherfordton, and Rockingham.